An Overview of the Mashing Process

Learn what mashing is, why it’s so critical to the brewing process, and how your brew could be affected by your selection of grain.

| May 2019


Mashing is the process in which starches are converted to ferment­ able sugars. Grains are mostly starch, protein and fiber; all grains are roughly so percent starch. For fermentation to work, starches must be broken down into simple sugars to enable the yeast to con­ sume them. During mashing, the diastatic enzymes activated during malting (see sidebar What Is Malt?) go to work on the starches.

Starches consist of long chains of glucose molecules. These chains can contain as few as 4 and as many as 400 sugar molecules.

{Shorter-chain starches are water-soluble; longer-chain starches are not water soluble.) The glucose chains are connected by ether linkages. An ether linkage happens when two sugar molecules join together and one water molecule is removed. During the process of mashing, enzymes cause water molecules to be reintroduced to the ether linkages, breaking the link, thus freeing the sugars from the chain.

There are two main stages in the process of converting starches to fermentable sugars: liquefaction and saccharification. During liquefaction, the alpha-amylase enzymes convert long-chain in­ soluble starches to water-soluble short-chain starches. Next, beta­ amylase enzymes reduce short-chain starches to sugar molecules (saccharification).

Malted grains (usually barley) supply the enzymes needed for starch conversion.



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